I’m so delighted to bring you another brilliant guest post from a registered dietitian nutritionist. Glenys is the author of the blog Dare Not To Diet and I am so pumped to bring her compassionate real-talk about dieting to Whole Green Wellness! I talk a lot about why dieting is not a smart move and to instead embrace intuitive eating and self-acceptance, but Glenys is here to tell you how to do it and what to expect along the journey.
Thank you to Taylor Wolfram for inviting me to write a guest post for her blog! It’s always awesome to meet another non-diet dietitian, especially one who has expertise where I don’t (in this case, veganism!).
I spend a lot of time on my blog, Dare To Not Diet, talking about how I quit dieting and why (hello – life of misery). I discuss how we know now that dieting does not actually produce long-term weight loss for most people, and how diets are a part of an oppressive culture that doesn’t encourage us to live fully expressed lives in which we can feel good not just about our bodies, but our total selves.
But today I’m going to talk about what it’s like to take those first few steps away from dieting and diet culture. While the end result of kicking the diet habit, with enough work, is a relaxed relationship with food and your body, it can be a little scary at first. The whole journey to intuitive eating feels anything but intuitive. Allow me to enumerate the possibilities of experiences:
1. On the first day you decide to never diet again, you may be flooded with incredible relief, followed up with wall-climbing anxiety. “How do I eat now?” “What does fullness feel like?” “Why am I still hungry all the time?” “How do I live without a meal plan?” The answer to all this anxiety, of course, is to learn how to eat intuitively, to listen to your internal cues of hunger and fullness, and to honor your preferences for both pleasure and nourishment. This might take some time, and I definitely recommend reaching out to a professional for help if you can, or at the very least, immerse yourself in the books that teach the non-diet approach.
2. You will get freaked out about your weight. If you dieted to suppress your weight, that may have worked for you, or it may not have. Either way, your body went through some serious energy deprivation. On the flip side, if the end result of your dieting was frequent binge-eating, your body may have taken in more energy than it needed. One thing is likely: your shape or weight may change in some direction. Or it may not. Helpful, huh?
One way to help you deal with weight-related anxiety is for you to try to detach from the expectation of weight loss. Why? Because this expectation will always undermine your ability to eat instinctively. When you try to chase a weight with your diet, you will never listen to your gut and instead do what you can to drop that needle on the scale. For this reason, I recommend not weighing at all. It can take work to commit to the wisdom of your body, but in the end, it will be worth it. And when you detach your self-worth from your weight, not only will you eat without drama, you’ll feel a lot freer to pursue what you really want in life.
3. You will mourn the fantasy of your “ideal” body. And you should; many years may have been devoted to this fantasy, many hopes pinned on achieving it. It is a loss. But also recognize that there is another way, and that is to accept your body as it is now. You don’t have to love it (that’s nice if you can get there, but I don’t think it’s necessary to live) but your life will be so much better if you can accept and respect it. Your body has carried you through so much in your life – it’s showed up for you time and again, even when it didn’t get enough food. Isn’t it time you gave it the loving kindness it deserves? If this seems overwhelming to you, start by expanding your acceptance of others’ bodies. Start to see the beauty all around you. Then turn that knowledge on yourself. Beauty isn’t a size or shape, and it never was. Pity the person who can’t think past that.
4. You will eventually think food is no big deal. Once you get through the intuitive eating process and you’re feeling pretty relaxed around food, one day you might notice that you care a whole lot less about food than you once did. This is simultaneously awesome and weird and a little bit sad. I became a dietitian because, in the deep woods of dieting mentality, I thought I was obsessed with food. Turns out I was just crazy-hungry, and not a foodie at all! When I emerged into the clear light of normal eating, it turned out I didn’t love every dessert on the planet (just the chocolate ones). Donuts were dull (unless they are from that place down the street). Anything with cheese was good, but not orgasm-inducing (except for pizza). You learn what you really like and what is just fine or maybe even not tasty to you at all. You also liberate many foods from the dulling prison of diets: salads can get dressing again, steamed vegetables can have butter. In this way, so many of those foods became delicious to me, and I no longer had to avoid them because they were a “waste of calories” (what a terrible way to think of food).
You may experience all of these feelings and more. Everyone is a little different, but I’ve met enough people in diet recovery to know now that we all live through a lot of the same experiences. My work in teaching people how to eat intuitively involves compassion for all the weirdness and anxiety that can happen on the way to healing.
Is it worth it? Well, consider this: you’re reading this for a reason, and I’m guessing it’s that eventually the reward of dieting and weight control was outpaced by the misery of food deprivation and unresolved body dissatisfaction. At the end of the non-diet road is something different: peace with eating and a loving truce with your body.
Glenys Oyston is a registered dietitian and eating coach who helps people recover from toxic diet culture and eating anxiety through the non-diet approach. As someone who struggled with her weight, chronic hunger, and feeling out-of-control around food for years, she knows exactly what others are going through and how to get them to food freedom. She works with people in person in her Los Angeles office and virtually via video conference. This year she launched Dare to Eat, an online program that helps people to learn to eat as much as they want, without guilt, in total freedom. You can find her at www.daretonotdiet.com and on her podcast Dietitians Unplugged.